Dodgers Deadline Deep Dive
The non-waiver deadline came and went like a tidal wave, slowly ebbing in only to completely engulf the world before it was too late to evacuate. The story has long since been told, as the Dodgers acquired a right-handed starter and two left-handed relievers to reinforce a pitching staff that has been near the tops of baseball statistically speaking.
Trades aren’t always clear cut, and sometimes it can truly take years to decide the winners and losers. There are often so many moving parts that this type of “win-lose” assessment is usually a fool’s errand, but below we’ll take a look at the moving pieces and weigh in on each.
Yu Darvish for Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy and Brendon Davis
Far and away the best talent available at the deadline, the Dodgers were able to swoop in and force the Rangers’ hand with little time left before the 4PM EST deadline.
As per Brooks Baseball, Darvish has upwards of eight pitches in his arsenal, with a strong degree of separation in velocity and movement. He has some injury concerns, as he came off Tommy John surgery in 2015 and was sidelined with forearm soreness this season. But he is truly the type of impact player the Dodgers should have sought at this deadline, so his addition makes all the sense in the world.
Skeptics will scream things like “he’s 0-5 in his last 6 starts,” as if pitcher wins are solely under their control. They’ll scream things like “he’s actually been bad over his last 10 starts,” which has some statistical validity.
But the non-skeptics will realize that Darvish’s home ERA when pitching in the 5th-strongest offensive environment in baseball is double that of when he’s not pitching there. His home ERA runs 5.38, while allowing an opponent triple slash of .248/.317/.445.
On the road, however, he’s been much better, as he’s pitched to a 2.49 ERA with an opponent triple slash of .199/.271/.323. Getting out of Texas will be a strong blessing for Darvish as he approaches free agency.
Its also important to note that he’ll be throwing to significantly improved framers in Grandal and Barnes, as well as the fact that he’s received the 13th lowest run support at 3.77 runs per game in baseball. It’s a pretty safe bet that a Dodgers team averaging 5.09 runs per game will help him a little more than a Rangers team averaging 4.92 runs per game in a significantly higher offensive environment.
Calhoun was ranked #4 on the Dodgers top prospect lists, as per MLB Pipeline. Calhoun’s bat is legit and would likely play in the majors right now, but many scouts questioned where he would play defensively, as he hasn’t been stellar at 2nd. Though he likely ends up as a DH or a LF, this is a great get for a Texas team that is in much need of reloading the farm. Calhoun might make his debut as soon as this year, but he should be a cog in the Texas lineup for a while.
Calhoun has made a ton of strides as a player the last few years, considerably reducing his strike rate. He’s always mashed dingers, which is a little deceptive when looking at a frame that’s listed as 5-foot-8.
Calhoun is the top-end piece the Rangers were looking for, and he makes perfect sense for them in both the short-term and long-term.
A.J. Alexy is a 19 y/o RHP out of PA that the Dodgers drafted in the 11th round of the 2016 draft. He has a low 90s fastball that should tick up as he puts some pounds onto his lanky 6-foot-4 frame, as well as a curveball that still needs to mature a little before it can get out quality hitters.
Realistically, Alexy is likely going to be a decent get for Texas. However, he’s probably 4-5 years away from the Majors. These are the types of assets the Dodgers should sell.
The Dodgers drafted Davis in the 5th round of the 2015 draft out of high school. He’s been playing in Rancho this year, where his bat has proven to lag a little bit behind his defensive tools.
However, the Rangers have tended to like strongly athletic, larger profile guys who just need to learn to hit. Davis is also 6-foot-4, and his defensive tool is already considered plus. As with Alexy, he’s like 4 or 5 years away from contributing at the major league level and the exact type of asset the Dodgers should sell.
This trade feels like a classic win-win trade to me. Texas gets the projectable high-upside bat they are looking for, and two potential lottery tickets that restock their farm system.
The Dodgers get the top-of-the-rotation right-handed starter many felt they need, and hopefully Darvish excels in the 4 or 5 playoff starts he gets.
Tony Watson for Oneil Cruz and Angel German
Watson is a prototypical change-of-scenery candidate, as he’s spent his entire career in Pittsburgh with a lot of success up until recently. In 2016, he saw a pretty hefty spike in his HR/FB rate (or the rate with which fly balls hit against him leave the yard), and it hasn’t really regressed in 2017.
He still has a strong ability to induce ground balls, as he runs a 43.6% rate this year. His peripherals line up pretty well with his career averages, so the stuff is still there. A change in game-plan and pitch usage could help him reinvent himself.
Overall, he is among the tops in the league in exit-velocity against, and while some will yell “fake news” at that, it is important to note that he is limiting hard contact. The Dodgers run out a considerably more effective defensive unit than the Pirates do, so he this could be an area where Watson sees a benefit.
The Dodgers signed the 6-foot-6 SS during the 2015 signing period. Due to his size, many question his ability to stick at the position long term. He’s only 18, and showed a little bit of hitting prowess in Rookie-League Ogden before being exploited this year in Great Lakes.
As a return on relief pitcher, the 18 y/o Cruz is likely 5 years or more away from the Majors, so the Pirates get a great lottery pick that likely has to slide over to 1B or the OF in order to make it.
German is a RHP that has a fastball that sits consistently in the mid-90s and has touched 100 MPH in the past. His main problem is that’s about where it stops, as his secondary pitches haven’t been any kind of effective. He’s 21 y/o, and maybe 2-3 years away from contributing at the ML level.
German became expendable with the emergence of pitches like Walker Buehler, Trevor Oaks, and Brock Stewart. He was never going to be a starter due to concerns surrounding his secondary offerings, but he has the potential to be a shut-down reliever. Mostly, this is just another lottery ticket, which is the type of assets one usually acquires for non-Chapman relievers.
The Dodgers are acquiring Watson in hopes that they can re-create some of his past success, and because Adam Liberatore is likely done for the season. They needed a second lefty to back Luis Avilan and if the rental Watson can recoup some magic, he may just overtake him. Realistically, he’s like a lefty-specialist in the playoffs.
The Pirates got two lottery tickets for a rental-relief pitcher, and while the cost may feel a little high, its unlikely that either player that was traded turns into more than organizational depth.
Tony Cingrani for Scott Van Slyke and Hendrik Clementina
Cingrani is a lefty handed pitcher who strikes out a ton of batters, walks a ton of batters and has had a massive home run problem this season. Escaping “Great American Small Park” where the Reds play their home games will certainly help, as will throwing to quality framers like Grandal and Barnes.
Cingrani has plenty of control left, so this reads like a reclamation project. He’s had some success in first two seasons, but he will definitely need to show something in order to stick. More likely, he’s a lottery ticket that the Dodgers can fire into the sun if he ends up not working out.
Scott Van Slyke
The much-maligned Van Slyke has seen his share of ups and downs with the Dodgers. Likely, he will be remembered for the infamous “Standoff,” but I’ll always remember his downright abuse of Wade Miley and the Opening-Day Australian Dinger that he made me stay up until 4 AM to watch.
For Van Slyke, he’s thoroughly a change-of-scenery candidate, and getting to a new organization after 11 years could help him return to productivity. In the long-run, even the best case scenario sees him as a lefty masher who might pop 10 home-runs in 250 At-bats.
This is a real prospect that was in the Dodgers farm system. He’s considered a catcher, though he doesn’t have catcher’s defense.
More likely, Hendrik’s success will lie in his bat, which is currently slugging over 550 in Ogden. It would be a surprise if he sticks at catcher.
The Dodgers traded SVS for a player. That, in itself, is impressive, considering Van Slyke was once designated for assignment and every single team in the majors passed on an opportunity to have him for free. He had some ups with the Dodgers, and he had some downs. I doubt anyone misses him, or Clementina, because honestly I didn’t even know he existed until today.
Cingrani is depth, through and through. He’s likely just a candidate to eat innings during August and September, and probably won’t see the field in the post season. He does have some control after this year, though he doesn’t have any options, so I’d expect to see him re-tooled a little in the offseason as another Honeycutt reclamation project.